Pubdate: Tue, 06 Nov 2001
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2001 The Irish Times
Author: Eithne Donnellan
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Cannabis joints were mailed to every TD and senator in the State yesterday 
by a West of Ireland man leading a campaign for the legalisation of the drug.

The idea landed Mr Luke "Ming" Flanagan (29) in Garda custody, however, and 
last night a Garda spokesman confirmed he had been released without charge 
and a file would go to the DPP.

Ming, who had designated yesterday National Legalise Cannabis Day, 
travelled to Dublin from his home in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, to mark the 
event by presenting the Minister with special responsibility for drugs, Mr 
Eoin Ryan, with a cannabis plant.

He was outside the Minister's offices on Kildare Street when he was 
arrested by gardai "acting on information".

His letter to members of the Oireachtas, each containing a joint, listed 10 
reasons why he believed cannabis should be legalised.

It also made it clear to public representatives that cannabis was illegal 
and said "it is advisable that you bring the enclosed joint to your local 
Garda station. Otherwise you will be breaking the law". One of the first to 
do this was Independent TD Mr Jackie Healy Rae.

There was no such advice for journalists who received similar packages. "I 
have enclosed a joint for you to enjoy on the day," was the message for them.

Not all letters seem to have arrived at their destinations, however. The 
Oireachtas public relations office said just eight of Ming's letters had 
arrived at Leinster House. They had been handed over to the Garda, a 
spokeswoman confirmed.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, said he had not received one of 
the letters.

Mr Flanagan said this may have been because he sent some of the letters to 
TDs at their home or constituency office addresses.

His local Fine Gael TD, Mr Denis Naughten, confirmed he received one. "I 
just smiled at it and said it's another of Luke's publicity stunts to 
highlight his campaign to legalise cannabis." He said his only concern was 
that the bulky letters might have caused alarm among postal workers worried 
about anthrax scares.

When released from Pearse Street Garda station shortly after 6 p.m. Ming 
said he was "very happy" with his day's work. He said he had been searched 
and found in possession of pounds 2 to pounds 3 "worth of grass". He had 
made a statement and it had been indicated to him that those who received 
his mail would also be asked to make statements, he said.

Ming, who was a candidate in both the last general and European elections, 
has a number of convictions for cannabis possession and had two other cases 
pending before yesterday's incident. "I'm not concerned about further 
prosecutions. It's like falling off a bike, once you do it once you're not 
scared any more," he said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth